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COLLECTED IN THE SOUTHERN COUNTIES OF SCOTLAND; WITH A FEW OF MODERN DATE,
FOUNDED UPON LOCA TRADITION
literary nature; and the remarks which follow have been added, to afford the general reader some information upon
the character of Ballad Poetry. POPULAR POETRY,
It would be throwing away words to prove, what all must admit, the general taste and propensity of nations in
their early state, to cultivate some species of rude poetry. THE VARIOUS COLLECTIONS OF BALLADS OF BRITAIN, PARTICULARLY
When the organs and faculties of a primitive race have deTHOSE OF SCOTLAND.
veloped themselves, each for its proper and necessary use, [First appended to the edition of 1830. ]
there is a natural tendency to employ them in a more reThe Introduction originally prefixed to “The Minstrelsy fined and regulated manner for purposes of amusement. of the Scottish Border," was rather of a bistorical than a The savage, after proving the activity of his limbs in the
· [The collective edition of Sir Walter Scott's Poetical Works. Edin. 1890.-Ed.)
* Two volumes of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border were published in 1802;-a third followed 10 1803 ; and, in the coursc of subsequent editions,
the arrangement of the ballads underwent various changes, and numerous additions were made to the Notes. Sir Walter Scoll drew up, in March 1830, the "Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry," which appear at the head of tbe present volume, and an '' Essay on Imitations of the ancient Ballad,"
chase or the ballle, trains them to more measured move from whom he copied. Indeed, though much must be as-
art, must possess something more than a full command of
baving no existence save through their art, has procured
which will be prefixed to the third part of the work. He kept by him, as
One of the Reviewers of the Minstrelsy, when it first appeared, said, “In
The airs of some of these old ballads are for the first time appended to the present edition. Tbe selection includes those wbich Sir Walter Scott bimself liked the best; and they are transcribed, wlihout variation, from the MSS, In his library.
According to Mr. Motherwell, the Editor of “Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern, 1827," the Old Ballads, which appeared for the first time in this collection, are forty-three in number, viz. Auld Mailland, The Song of the Oullaw Murray, Lord Ewrie, The Lochmaben larper, Jamie Telfer of the fair Dodhead, Kinmont Willie, The Death of Featherstonehaugh, Bartrame's Đ!rge, Archie o' Ca'feld, Johnny Armstrong's Good Night, The Lads of
Wamphray, The Battle of Philiphaugh, The Gallant Grahames, The Ballle
Mr. Motherwell adds—"Fortunate it was for the heroic and legendary
LONDON, March 12, 1833.
The mere arrangement of words into poetical rhythm, or of states; their slower or swister progress toward civilisacombining them according to a technical rule or measure, tion; ibeir gradual or more rapid adoption of manners, is so closely connected with the art of music, that an alliance sentiments, and religion. The study, therefore, of lays between these two fine arts is very soon closely formed. rescued from the gull of oblivion, must in every case posIt is fruitless to enquire which of them has been first in sess considerable interest for the moral philosopher and vented, since doubtless the precedence is accidental; and it i general historian. signifies little whether the musician adapts verses to a rude The historian of an individual nation is equally or more tune, or whether the primitive poet, in reciting his produc- | deeply interested in the researches into popular poetry, lions falls naturally into a chant or song. With this addi- since he must not disdain to gather from the tradition cantional accomplishment, the poet becomes doldos, or the man veyed in ancient ditties and ballads, the information neof song, and his character is complete when the additional cessary to confirm or correct intelligence collected from accompaniment of a lute or harp is added to his vocal per more certain sources. And although the poets were a formance.
fabling race from the very beginning of time, and so much Here, therefore, we have the history of early poetry in addicted to exaggeration, that their accounts are seldom to all nations. But it is evident that, though poetry seems be relied on without corroborative evidence, yet instances a plant proper to almost all soils, yet not only is it of various frequently occur where the statements of poetical tradition, kinds, according to the climate and country in which it has are unexpectedly confirmed. its origin, but the poetry of different nations differs still To the lovers and admirers of poetry as an art, it cannot be more widely in the degree of excellence wbich it attains. uninteresting to have a glimpse of the National Muse in her This must depend in some measure, no doubt, on the temper cradle, or to hear her babbling the earliest attempts at the and manners of the people, or their proximity to those spirit- formation of the tuneful sounds with which she was asterstirring events which are naturally selected as the subject wards to charm posterity. And I may venture to add, that of poetry, and on the more comprehensive or energetic among poetry, wbich, however rude, was a gift of Nature's character of the language spoken by the tribe. But the first fruits, even a reader of refined taste will find his paprogress of the art is far more dependent upon the rise of tience rewarded, by passages in which the rude minstrel some highly-gifted individual, possessing in a preeminent rises into sublimity or melts into pathos. These were the and uncommon degree the powers demanded, whose talents merits which induced the classical Addison to write an influence the taste of a whole nation, and entail on their elaborate commentary upon the ballad of Chevy Cbase, and posterity and language a character almost indelibly sacred. which roused, like the sound of a trumpet, the heroic blood In this respect Homer stands alone and unrivalled, as a of Sir Philip Sidney. 3 light from whose lamp the genius of successive ages, and It is true, that passages of this high character occur of distant nations, has caught fire and illumination; and seldom; for during the infancy of the art of poetry, the wbo, though the early poet of a rude age, bas purchased bards have been generally satisfied with a rude and careless for the era he has celebrated, so much reverence, that, not expression of their sentiments; and even when a more selidaring to bestow on it the term of barbarous, we distinguish citous expression, or loftier numbers, have been dictated by it as the heroic period.
the enthusiasm of the composition, the advantage came unNo other poet (sacred and inspired authors excepted) ever sought for, and perhaps unnoticed, cither by the minstrel or did, or ever will, possess the same influence over posterity, the audience. in so many distant lands, as has been acquired by the blind Another cause contributed to the tenuity of thought and old man of Cbios; yet we are assured that his works, col- poverty of expression, by which old ballads are too often lected by the pious care of Pisistratus, who caused to be distinguished. The apparent simplicity of the ballad stanza united into their present form those divine poems, would carried with it a strong temptation to loose and trivial comotherwise, if preserved at all, have appeared to succeeding position. The collection of rhymes, accumulated by the generations in the humble state of a collection of detached
earliest of the craft, appears to bave been considered as formballads, connected only as referring to the same age, the ing a joint stock for the common use of the profession; and same general subjects, and the same cycle of heroes, like not mere rhymes only, but verses and stanzas, have been the metrical poems of the Cid in Spain,' or of Robin Hood used as common property, so as to give an appearance of in England.
sameness and crudity to the whole series of popular poetry. In other countries, less favoured, either in language or in Such, for instance, is the salutation so often repeated, picturesque incident, it cannot be supposed tbat even the
"Now leaven thee save, thou brave young knight, genius of Homer could have soared to such exclusive eminence, since he must at once have been deprived of the subjects and themes so well adapted for his muse, and of the
And such the usual expression for taking counsel with, losty, melodious, and lexible language in which he recorded
“Rede me ,rede me, brother dear, them. Olher nations, during the formation of their ancient
My rede shall rise at ibee." poetry, wanted the genius of Homer, as well as his picturesque Such also is the unvaried account of the rose and the brier, scenery and lofty language. Yet the investigation of the which are said to spring out of the grave of the hero and early poetry of every pation, even the rudest, carries with heroine of these metrical legends, with little effort at a vait an object of curiosity and interest. It is a chapter in riation of the expressions in which the incident is prescrip the history or the childhood of society, and its resemblance lively told. The least acquaintance with the subject will lo, or dissimilarity from, the popular rhymes of other nations recall a great number of commonplace verses, which each in the same stage, must needs illustrate the ancient history ballad-maker has unceremoniously appropriated to himself;
Now leaveu thee sare and see.
i [The "Poema del Cid" (of which Mr. Frere bas trauslated some specimens) is, bowever, considered by every historian of Spanisb literature, as The work of one hand; and is evidently more ancient than the detached ballads on the Adventures of the Campeador, which are included in the Cancioneros.-ED.)
9 [ See The Spectator, No. 70. and 74.]
3 [I never heard the old soog of Percic and Douglas that I found not my beart moved more iban with the sound of a trumpet; and yet it is sung but by some blind crowder, with no rougher voice than rude style. - SIDNEY.]
thereby greatly facilitating bis own task, and at the same during which they have been handed from one ignorant time degrading his art by his slovenly use of over-scutched reciter to another, each discarding whatever original words phrases. From the same indolence, the ballad-mongers of or phrases lime or fashion had, in his opinion, rendered most nations have availed themselves of every opportunity obsolete, and substituting anachronisins by expressions taken of prolonging their pieces, of the same kind, without the from the customs of biş own day. And bere it may be relabour of actual composition. If a message is to be de marked, that the desire of the reciter to be intelligible, livered, the poet saves himself a little trouble, by using however natural and laudable, has been one of the greatest cxactly the same words in which it was originally couched, causes of the deterioration of ancient poetry. The minstrel to secure its being transmitted to the person for whose ear who endeavoured lo recite with fidelity the words of the it was intended. The bards of ruder climes, and less fa- | author, might indeed fall into errors of sound and sense, voured languages, may indeed claim the countenance of and substitute corruptions for words he did not understand. Homer for such repetitions; but whilst, in the Father of But the ingenuity of a skilful critic could often, in that case, Poetry, they give the reader an opportunity to pause, and revive and restore the original meaning; while the corrupted look back upon the enchanted ground over which they have words became, in such cases, a warrant for the authenticity travelled, they afford nothing to the modern bard, save sa-l of the whole poem.” cilitating the power of stupifying the audience with stanzas In general, however, the later reciters appear to have of dull and tedious iteration,
been far less desirous to speak the author's words, than to Another cause of the fatness and insipidity, which is the introduce amendments and new readings of their own, great imperfection of ballad poetry, is to be ascribed less which have always produced the effect of modernizing, and to the compositions in their original state, when rebearsed usually that of degrading and vulgarizing, the rugged sense by their authors, than to the ignorance and errors of the and spirit of the antique minstrel. Thus, undergoing from reciters or transcribers, by whom they have been trans age lo age a gradual process of alteration and recomposimitted to us. The more popular the composition of an tion, our popular and oral minstrelsy has lost, in a great ancient poet, or Maker, became, the greater chance there measure, its original appearance; and the strong louches by was of its being corrupted; for a poem transmitted through which it had been formerly characterised, have been genea number of reciters, like a book reprinted in a multitude rally smoothed down and destroyed by a process similar to of editions, incurs the risk of impertinent interpolations that by which a coin, passing from hand to hand, loses in from the conceit of one rehearser, unintelligible blunders circulation all the finer marks of the impress, from the stupidity of another, and omissions equally to be The very fine ballad of Chevy Chase is an example of regretled, from the want of memory in a third. This sort this degrading species of alchymy, by which the ore of anof injury is felt very early, and the reader will find a curious liquity is deteriorated and adulterated. While Addison, instance in the Introduction to the Romance of Sir Tristrem. in an age which had never attended to popular poetry, Robert de Brunne there complains, that though the Romance wrole his classical criticism on that ballad, he naturally look of Sir Tristrem was the best which had ever been made, if for his text the ordinary slall-copy, although he might, and it could be recited as composed by the author, Thomas of ought to have suspected, that a ditty couched in the language Erceldoune ; yet that it was written in such an ornate style nearly of his own time, could not be the same with that of language, and such a difficult strain of versification, as to which Sir Philip Sidney, more than one hundred years belose all value in the mouths of ordinary minstrels, who fore, had spoken of, as being "evil apparelled in the dust could scarcely repeat one stanza without omitting some and cobwebs of an uncivilized age.' The venerable Bishop part of it, and marring, consequently, both the sense and Percy was the first to correct this mistake, by producing a the rhythm of the passage.' This delerioration could not copy of the song, as old at least as the reign of Henry VII., be limited to one author alone; others must have suffered bearing the name of the author, or transcriber, Richard from the same cause, in the same or a greater degree. Sheale.3 But even the Rey. Editor himself fell under the Nay, we are authorized to conclude, that in proportion 10 mistake of supposing the modern Chevy Chase to be a new the care bestowed by the author upon any poem, to attain copy of the original ballad, expressly modernized by some what his age might suppose to be the bighest graces of poetry, one later bard. On the contrary, the current version is the greater was the damage which it sustained by the inaccu now universally allowed to have been produced by the racy of reciters, or their desire to humble both the sense and gradual alterations of numerous reciters, during two cendiction of the poem to their powers of recollection, and the turies, in the course of wbich the ballad has been gradually comprehension of a vulgar audience. It cannot be expected moulded into a composition bearing only a general resemthat compositions subjected in this way to mulilation and blance to the original-expressing the same events and sencorruption, should continue to present their original sense timents in much smoother language, and more flowing and or diction; and the accuracy of our editions of popular easy versification; but losing in poetical fire and energy, poetry, unless in the rare event of recovering original or and in the vigour and pithiness of the expression, a great early copies, is lessened in proportion.
deal more than it bas gained in suavity of diction. Thus:But the chance of these corruptions is incalculably increased, when we consider that the ballads have been, not
" The Percy owl of Northumberland, in one, but innumerable instances of transmission, liable to
And a vowe to God mayd be,
Tbat he wolde bunte in the mountayns similar alterations, through a long course of centuries,
off Cheviot within dayes tbre,
("That thou may bear in sir Tristrem :
The reciter repealed a verse, descriptive of the desence of a castle, tbus :
" With spring-wall, stanes, and goads of airn
Among them fast be tbrew." Spring-wall is a corruption of springald, a military eugine for casting darts or stones ; tbe restoration of which reading gives a precise and clear sense to tbe lines.
Sce Percy's Rcliques, vol. I. p. 2.
• An inslance occurs in the valuable old baliad, called Auld Maitland.